On Oct. 10, healthcare industry leaders gathered at Belmont University's Curb Center to honor the six trailblazers being inducted into the second class of the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame: Jack O. Bovender, Jr.; Stanley Cohen, PhD; Henry W. Foster, Jr., MD, FACOG; Frank S. Groner, LLD; Paul E. Stanton, MD; and Colleen Conway Welch, PhD, CNM, FAAN, FACNM.
The Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame was created by Belmont University and The McWhorter Society with support from the Nashville Health Care Council to honor those who have served the industry as pioneers and innovators and who have contributed to Tennessee's status as a leader in the nation's healthcare sector.
Susan Dentzer, president and CEO of Network for Excellence in Health Innovation, served as the 2016 event's emcee. Dentzer, who was previously editor-in-chief for Health Affairs and a senior policy advisor with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, noted, "This celebration honors six individuals who have contributed in vitally important ways to Tennessee's ... and our nation's ... growing healthcare sector." She added, "They come from many areas across the state. They represent different skills and disciplines. They're all passionate, committed to philanthropy, and they put patients first in all that they do. They've helped propel this state, Tennessee, to its premier place on the national healthcare stage."
Jack O. Bovender, Jr.
Jack O. Bovender, Jr.
Bovender retired from Hospital Corporation of America in 2009 as the company's chairman and CEO. The veteran healthcare executive launched his 40-year hospital administration career in 1969 as a young lieutenant in the U.S. Navy stationed in Virginia. He would go on to serve as CEO of two HCA hospitals in Florida and later move into executive positions at the company's corporate level.
Known for creating an open, patients-first culture, the innovations he employed at HCA have become a model for the larger industry. Bovender's commitment to fostering diversity among healthcare leadership led to the establishment of the Executive Development Program.
His patient-centric worldview also made him a strong advocate for national programming to address the needs of the uninsured and underinsured. He established HCA's charity care and uninsured discount policy and set the tone for corporate citizenship in the face of Hurricane Katrina. Bovender is credited with spearheading the rescue of patients, employees and staff from neighboring hospitals during the devastating natural disaster. From his command center in Nashville, he led HCA's team effort to get supplies and relief to those in need until a massive evacuation effort could be launched.
A North Carolina native, Bovender received both his undergraduate degree in psychology and his master's in hospital administration from Duke University. He was the 2007 recipient of the American College of Healthcare Executives' Gold Medal Award and was named "Best CEO in America" for healthcare facilities in 2003, 2004, and 2005 by Institutional Investor. Bovender, who was recognized by his alma mater in 2012 with the Distinguished Alumni Award, was also a founding member of the Nashville Health Care Council.
Stanley Cohen, PhD
Stanley Cohen, PhD
A Nobel Prize-winning scientist, passionate educator, and life-long mentor, Stanley Cohen, PhD, served as professor of Biochemistry at Vanderbilt University for more than four decades.
The New York native earned his undergraduate degree from Brooklyn College with a double major in chemistry and zoology. He later earned his master's in zoology from Oberlin College and his doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Michigan. In 1952, Cohen arrived at Washington University in St. Louis as a postdoctoral fellow of the American Cancer Society working in the Department of Radiology. The following year, he became associated with the Department of Zoology and joined Rita Levi-Montalcini, MD, to characterize what would become known as nerve growth factor (NGF). At the same time, Cohen isolated the substance now known as epidermal growth factor (EGF).
Cohen arrived at Vanderbilt in 1959 and continued to work on the characterization of EGF and its receptor. The ground-breaking work by Levi-Montalcini and Cohen led to the duo winning the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology. Their research on cellular growth factors proved to be fundamental to understanding the development of cancer. From that foundation, more than 85 anti-cancer drugs have been developed. Cohen's work highlights the importance of basic research in creating bedside breakthroughs.
Highly decorated for his scientific achievements, Cohen was elected into the National Academy of Sciences, and was the recipient of the National Medal of Science from Ronald Reagan and the prestigious Lasker Award. He retired from Vanderbilt in 2000.
Henry W. Foster, Jr., MD
Henry W. Foster, Jr., MD, FACOG
A noted physician, surgeon, academician and activist, Foster has dedicated his career to ensuring women and children have access to quality care.
An Arkansas native, Foster completed his bachelor's degree at Morehouse College in Atlanta before returning home to earn his medical degree from the University of Arkansas, where he was the only African-American in his class of 96 medical students. Following graduation in 1958, Foster served as a medical officer in the U.S. Air Force and then completed residency trainings in surgery at Malden Hospital in Boston and obstetrics and gynecology at Meharry Medical College.
For eight years, Foster served as chief of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Tuskegee Institute's John Andrew Hospital. The only OB/GYN in a seven-county region, he and his team delivered more than 17,000 babies and performed more than 1,200 major surgical procedures. During his tenure, he helped significantly reduce infant mortality rates.
Foster returned to Nashville in 1973 as the chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology for Meharry and would later serve as dean of the School of Medicine. In 1987, Foster unveiled "I Have a Future," an initiative that effectively reduced teen pregnancy and instilled self-belief among disadvantaged teens. The program was accorded one of the nation's Thousand Points of Light Awards by President George H.W. Bush. After serving as a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton's for several years, Foster was his nominee for U.S. Surgeon General.
An elected member of the National Academy of Medicine, Foster, who is also a clinical professor at Vanderbilt, is widely published and speaks around the globe about his advocacy on behalf of disadvantaged populations.
Frank S. Groner
Frank S. Groner, LLD (posthumously)
Groner, a Texas native and Baylor graduate, spent almost 50 years as a healthcare executive. After serving as CEO of Southern Baptist Hospital in New Orleans, he assumed the leadership of Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis in 1946 at the age of 34 and transformed the organization into a health system of national prominence.
Under his leadership, Baptist Memorial grew from 500 beds to more than 2,000. He pioneered numerous hospital trends, including building a major addition with almost all private rooms ... highly unusual for 1953 ... and putting televisions in the rooms for patients.
During his influential career, Groner served as chairman of the American College of Health Care Executives and the American Hospital Association. He won the prestigious Justin Ford Kimball Award in 1964, the Distinguished Service Award from the AHA in 1966, and the Gold Medal Award from the American College of Hospital Administrators in 1988. In addition, Groner was recognized by his alma mater with the Distinguished Alumnus award in 1983.
Groner was also a committed mentor and firm believer in education. He endowed a professorship at Baylor and created the Frank S. Groner Fellowship in Health Administration at Baptist Memorial Health Care Corporation. More than 70 healthcare executives launched their careers through the program.
He led Baptist Memorial until 1980 and served as president emeritus until his death in 1994.
Paul E. Stanton, Jr., MD
Paul E. Stanton, Jr., MD
The surgeon and academic leader grew up in Georgia. After completing his undergraduate work at Emory University in his hometown of Atlanta, he headed to Augusta where he graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and was later honored with the Distinguished Alumnus Award.
After completing internship, residency and fellowship, he returned to Atlanta as an attending physician and then spent the next decade honing his academic and surgical skills with roles including director of residency education, professor and chief of surgery at several institutions in Georgia.
Stanton relocated to Johnson City in 1985 and began rising through the ranks at East Tennessee State University. Beginning as associate professor and chief of Vascular Surgery, he soon became a full professor and was successively named chair of the Department of Surgery, dean of Medicine, vice president for Health Affairs ... and in 1997 became ETSU's 8th president.
Stanton was responsible for the university's largest grant to date, a $6 million award from the Kellogg Foundation for Interdisciplinary Health Care Education. Under his watch, ETSU established the Gatton College of Pharmacy, added 10 new doctoral programs, and awarded more than 31,000 diplomas.
His energy and passion for creating healthier, happier communities led Stanton to work closely with area providers to create regional programs and partnerships. He also served on the TennCare Committee on Graduate Medical Education, the Governor's TennCare Roundtable, and the Southern regional Education Board.
Retiring from ETSU in January 2012, he was named president emeritus. Last year Stanton became just the second person in more than a decade to be honored with the ETSU James H. Quillen College of Medicine's prestigious Quest Award.
Colleen Conway Welch, PhD
Colleen Conway Welch, PhD, CNM, FAAN, FACNM
Vanderbilt University School of Nursing Dean Emerita Colleen Conway Welch long has been nationally recognized for her visionary work in healthcare and nursing education. Just this year alone, she has been inducted into the Tennessee Health Care Hall of Fame and named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing.
She began her distinguished career by earning a degree in nursing from Georgetown University, followed by an MSN from Catholic University of America, nurse midwifery education at Catholic Maternity Institute in New Mexico, and doctorate in nursing from New York University.
Along the way, she served in numerous clinical positions before moving to Nashville in 1984 to join VUSN as professor and dean. During her 29-year tenure, the second longest in the nation for a sitting dean, she launched the university's Bridge Program, allowing college graduates to complete 12 months of a "bridge" to earn a BSN equivalent before embarking on a 12-month MSN degree. She also began Vanderbilt's Nurse-Midwifery major in the master's program and introduced numerous innovations into the curriculum.
On a national stage, Conway Welch was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, appointed to the Advisory Committee to the Director of the National Institutes of Health, served on President Ronald Reagan's Commission on the HIV Epidemic, appointed by President George W. Bush to the Board of the Kennedy Center for the Arts and the Presidential Commission on Emergency Preparedness, and served on the Bipartisan Commission on the Future of Medicare, among other roles.